Muffin Top Myths
I would like to preface this post with a few words before I get into the “Muffin Top Myths”. Women are beautiful in ALL shapes and sizes. It’s most important that we are comfortable in our own skin and that we try to be healthy for ourselves and our family. That being said, I know that the tummy is a “trouble zone” for many women (and men) and I am here to debunk the Muffin Top Myths that seems to be held onto so tightly that we may never be free of them. But at least I will be one more voice saying “No! That’s not true!!”
So here they are…
Muffin Top Myths:
Myth number 1: I could get rid of my muffin top if I could do enough crunches.
Fact: While crunches can help give you the six pack you may so desire, no amount of crunches will get rid of the extra “frosting” on top of your abs. You can’t reduce fat in one part of your body just by working out that part of your body. What a person eats plays the biggest roll in the size of his or her stomach. You really only need to do about 3 sets of 8-12 reps of each abdominal exercise to get the muscle you need. After that, cardio and what you eat come into play.
Myth number 2: If I cut all fat out of my diet I will no longer have fat on my stomach.
Fact: Healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, and minimally processed coconut oil (I buy my Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil here <—affiliated link *see note below) can actually aid in visceral weight loss (meaning your stomach). Insulin spikes (from sugars and processed carbs) are what often cause us to pack the pounds on our tummy.
Myth number 3: After having kids, you just can’t achieve a six pack.
Fact: Yes, we all have different body types so no one will look the same at their top physical form. I also know from experience that babies can wreck havoc on our bodies AND some things like stretch marks and sagging skin may never go away. However, fat can be reduced with the right eating and the right workouts. It may take a lot of work (more for some than others. Yes, genes and hormones can play a factor in where a person stores fat.) But if your goal is to get rid of a muffin top, this can be achieved.
And with that I have to also say, it may not be worth all the work. If you look at the fitness models in the magazines you may be setting your goals too high (at least for an every day look). Those girls (and guys), are in that top shape for the week of the shoot. They are often air brushed, have great lighting, and sometimes even have makeup on their abdominals. They often have just done a bunch of crunches right before the shoot, and are flexing for the photo. Even when I am sporting my 6 pack it doesn’t look as chiseled as the magazines. And when I have one I am working out 6 days a week and eating the kinds of foods I need to in order to obtain that look.
It is the magazine model’s JOB to look that way. My job is to be a mom and housewife. Fitness is my hobby. You may be an at home dad, or mom, have a busy job outside the home, or any other number of priorities that take up most of your time. You may be thinking “I ain’t got time for that”. And you would be right. A 6 pack takes work. It can be obtained but it may just not be worth it. Some days I rather spend extra time with my family than the extra hour in the gym. And that’s just fine with me.
No, I’m not trying to talk you out of trying to obtain a 6-pack. I’m just saying, sometimes, there are much more important things in life. 😉
But if a 6-pack (or even a flatter tummy) is what you desire then read on…
My “Muffin Top” Story
My stomach has ALWAYS been a trouble zone for me. “It’s just in my genes!” I lamented. Or “Hey, I’ve had 2 babies, what do you expect?” was another reason for my lack of abs. I seemed to be able to keep weight off everywhere but my stomach. Even as a teen I never was very fond of my midsection and I was not overweight by any means. I would have settled for a “no pack” if it was just flat.
Here is a photo of me at my heaviest in college. I know I was not obese but I was heavy. I just wanted to show how I too have struggled with my weight in the past.
I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. I played soccer since I was a child and through my freshman year of college. Since then I had run a marathon, many half marathons, and I ate what I considered to be (as well as what many doctors would consider to be) a very healthy diet. I ate a low fat diet with plenty of vegetables and lots of fruit. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t lose this weight around my stomach. I felt like I would have to starve myself if I ever wanted to have a slim stomach. I sometimes resorted to just that (starvation). I would skip breakfast some days or fast from all fats other days. Meat was not a big part of my diet. All that fat in a burger made me cringe. Much to my dismay, none of these tactics worked. I was never happy with my body, no matter how hard I worked at it.
Fast forward to 2012. This is when I started lifting heavy, eating clean, and quit the cardio hamster wheel. Yes, I still love cardio, but it’s not my main focus when I head to the gym. But one of the biggest changes I have made, is how I eat. I now eat much more quality animal protein, and other unprocessed foods. Before these changes, I can’t tell you how often I ate garbage labeled “fat free”, or counted every calorie that went into my mouth rather than caring about the quality of food I was eating. (A “fat free” label is often a good sign that you should run in the opposite direction.) I started a lifting plan by Jamie Eason called Live Fit and I cut processed sugar out of my diet completely for 12 weeks (the length of the lifting/eating program). I was still thinking low fat was the way to go when I first started her program but then found that I could get the same results eating whole eggs as I could eating tasteless egg whites, and I was healthier in doing so. After finishing the Live Fit program, I was eating quality foods filled with quality fats, no longer addicted to sugar, and sporting a 6 pack to prove that eating (the right kind of) fat does not make you fat.
Now, 2 years later, I am enjoying amazingly delicious real food and my stomach is no longer my trouble zone. My abs are more of a “2 or 4 pack” most days since I am not training as hard as I did when I was following Jamie Eason’s fitness plan to a T. Although some mornings I happily wake up to a nice 6 pack before I eat anything, ;). But now I know what it takes to get that 6 pack I never knew I was capable of obtaining… especially after giving birth to 2 babies. I have also come to be comfortable with the body I am in, while not spending every single day at the gym. I get to eat a LOT of food, it’s just quality food, and my diet doesn’t include processed sugar or processed carbs. So I’m also not feeling super bloated all the time. And when I say diet I don’t mean “I’m on a diet”. This way of eating has become a lifestyle. I no longer crave sugar like I once did. Yes, I still have a sweet tooth. I make desserts, and love fruit. But my desserts don’t include that white addictive sugar that’s in almost EVERYTHING processed these days. (Even most spaghetti sauces contain sugar.)
So what does it take to get rid of that muffin top?
1. Abdominal exercises: An ab workout once or twice a week is enough and you don’t even have to do typical crunches. I pick a few exercises and do 3 sets of 8-12 (resting about 30-45 seconds between sets).
2. Cardio: While running all day every day wont get you your 6 pack, some cardio is needed to uncover those abs that are underneath the fluff. Intervals are usually the best way to slim down and show off the abdominal muscles you have worked on.
3. Food: Visible abs are “made in the kitchen”. It wont matter how many crunches you do if it’s covered by a nice layer of fat. And you can’t out run what you eat. I remember running 20 miles one Saturday while training for a full marathon. Then afterwards, I thought I could reward myself with the biggest bowl of ice cream ever. Sure, I had burned that many calories but the sugar gave me an insulin spike that sent fat right to my midsection. The best thing I’ve ever done to get rid of my tummy trouble zone is cut our processed sugar. Even too many natural sugars (for example: honey, dates, and bananas), can have a similar insulin spiking effect as table sugar. So if you aren’t seeing the results you like, consider cutting out some of the sweet stuff (honey and fruit).
Here are some of my favorite core exercises. Throw these into your lifting routine with a little cardio and some “clean eating” and you will soon see the abdominal muscle you have built. These are some great non traditional abdominal moves that will get you more bang for your buck. Click on the name of each exercise if you would like to see a video example of each one:
1. Exercise Ball Crunch: Using an exercise ball works your core more than doing crunches on the floor. An exercise ball is relatively cheap and can also be used for other exercises when using free weights at home. I love our exercise ball.
2. Reverse Crunch: These are great for targeting those lower abs that wont be hit with a traditional crunch.
3. Hanging Leg Crunch: You can use a pull up bar or roman chair at the gym. At home I use our pull up bar that can be put in a doorway.
4. Flat Bench Lying Leg Lifts: Another great one for the lower abs.
5. Air Bicycle: This works your lower and side abdominals.
But I have to tell you, while having a 6 pack (or at least a lack of “muffin top”) is an added perk to working hard in the gym and eating well, the biggest benefit I have found is how I feel overall when eating real food. My husband has even thanked me (and he loves his ice cream as much as I do) for making the switch in how we eat as a family (I prepare most of our meals). We both have noticed significant health improvements and feel overall better now that we are eating real food as opposed to the processed stuff that makes up about 80% of what is found in the grocery store today. We don’t eat perfect by any means (for example my husband enjoys pizza and ice cream almost every Sunday), and every day is a learning process, but the changes we have made have been beneficial to our entire family.
Need a some equipment for an easy at home ab workout? Check out these links:
*Some of the above links are affiliate links. Click here to learn more about affiliate links.